One would think illustrating and describing a seemingly lifeless world cloaked in ink would be an exercise in futility. Unless of course you are an inhabitant of the fathomless depths. Or Andrew Plant.

Plant’s latest author illustrated title, Stardiving is more than a clever oxymoron. It is a foray into the unknown. A daring and sublime exploration of a world visited by but a few, all rendered in a rigorously limited yet serenely darkened colour palette.

The front cover endpapers of this inspired picture book begin with a stunning visual and expository breakdown of the great sperm whale. 

Don’t be tempted to skip this read through. We are introduced to terminology and several unique attributes of this mighty mammal before moving through an ocean of blues and teals to young Fluke’s story and thanks to this brief exposition, it feels as though we are already better acquainted with Fluke’s beguiling ways.

Plant gives you a moment to ponder that which you’ve just learnt with a wordless spread depicting Fluke’s ocean home; a wide sweeping vista of rolling waves and sunlit waters in which Fluke’s pod linger and laze. Fluke’s mother watches as he and his young friend, Amber frolic among the whitecaps, exchanging taunts with the capricious dolphins.

It is they who sow the seed of wonder and yearning in him and soon Fluke is daydreaming about the stars above. He longs to see them, to experience their beauty, believing that in doing so, his knowledge of the world will swell like an ocean current. But while waiting in vain one cloudy night, Fluke is visited by the great bull whale, Cachalot who admonishes his daydreams as folly. ‘Dive. Dive into the dark and cold’, advises Cachalot if it is stars Fluke hopes to see. So, Fluke does. And what he discovers is stellar to the nth degree.

The deep trenches of Earth’s magnificent oceans are darker than night. And yet, life exists in a myriad of wonderous, bio-luminescent forms. Eerie and enticing. Frightening and fascinating. Astonishing and twinkling and, starlike. Fluke’s first star dive is illuminating on many levels. It allows him to fulfil a dream but also permits a discovery not just of what lurks in the depths below but of himself and his astounding capabilities, unharnessing a skill set (being able to dive deeper than any other mammal) peculiar to a few like him. The moment of self-discovery is as momentous as the discovery of the deep-sea creatures themselves. And all this occurs in a dense sea of acute perspectives and dark acrylics and watercolours; 50 shades of beautiful black as it were. Pure magnificence.

Soothing language, descriptive restraint and considered text placement ensure the reader’s journey with Fluke to the ocean’s mysterious abyss is unhampered and memorable. The grandeur of this experience will no doubt urge you to stardive over and over again. And what of the back cover endpapers? Well, you’ll have to dive deep to uncover those marvels for yourself. Just ask Fluke. He’ll show you the way.

Stardiving is a must for oceanographers and marine scientists in the making or anyone who just loves the magic of star gazing. Highly recommended.

Title: Stardiving
Author Illustrator: Andrew Plant
Publisher: Ford St Publishing, $24.95
Publication Date: April 2022
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781922696014
For ages: 6 – 12
Type: Picture Book

July 18, 2022 at 12:57AM DimbutNice